Stockport strife hits stars of the future hard

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My younger brother Sam has been with Stockport County for a year, playing in their U14 side.

On Monday, I had an email from his mum. In contrast to his school report, Stockport’s coaches had given Sam a glowing report.

They said he thinks like a true centre-forward and that they had been delighted with his progress. If his improvement continues, they said, then prepare for a few surprises.

Without getting carried away, the family were delighted. It had been a big burden on time and resources just keeping him at Stockport.

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He was required to train on a Monday and Wednesday night on the other side of Manchester – a journey which would have taken over two hours each way using public transport.

So the family weighed in with support. My dad would drive Sam through the Manchester rush-hour once a week, watch him train and bring him home. Sam’s mum would do likewise – and wait freezing as he trained.

My sister and her husband chipped in. I did a small stint too, getting up at 7am to drive him two hours to Lilleshall on a freezing November morning. It was worth it, he scored two belters.

Parents and family are seriously told not to celebrate goals. I’ll face the rap on that one then. I was up for letting flares off in the Shropshire countryside.

Given Sam’s weekly wage was £10 for collecting and sorting United We Stand’s mail and £5 for delivering newspapers, all the petrol money came out of the family’s pocket. It seemed worth it.

I received another email on Wednesday from Sam’s mum. “Can you check out rumours that Stockport County are going to shut their school of excellence?”

As I chased it up, I received another email a day later.

“All the lads got told that they are being let go last night. They are gutted. The centre of excellence will close.”

Then the events began to gather momentum. A friend at a television company in Manchester, who didn’t know that Sam was at Stockport, emailed to say: “Stockport have gone into administration.”

The following duly went out on the wire: “Stockport County have gone into administration after falling into financial difficulties. The club are reported to have appointed Leonard Curtis, an accountancy firm, as administrators and say they remain hopeful of finding a buyer.

“We are keen to work with the board to explore all possible solutions to ensure the club's future prospects are protected as far as possible.”

Leonard Curtis said in a statement: “We are extremely hopeful that we will find a buyer for the club and are already aware of a number of expressions of interest.

“We are committed to working with the club’s management team to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, balancing the needs of concerned creditors with the future of the club.”

Uncertain future for Edgeley Park outfit 

That means little to Sam. His team-mates have taken the announcement as a personal judgement of their ability. He’ll miss his mates and the summer tournament in Ibiza which they’d been looking forward to. 

He idolises his coach, Mick. Even my dad, who hates everyone apart from Bill Clinton, likes Mick. He could be out of a job too, but Mick was more concerned about the welfare of the kids he’d been coaching and the negative effect it will have on them.

It’s a harsh introduction to the real world for Sam. He has no club, but there’s a possible silver lining.

A scout from a club called Manchester United watched him last week against Burnley and, along with another Stockport player, has been offered two trials with United this month. His focus is now on staying fit for them.

So watch out Macheda and Welbeck. OK, OK… but what’s football without dreams?

BLOG: Stockport: That was never a penalty!

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